By Naseer Ganai
Like other discussions about politics of Kashmir, this one too turned to nineties. After listening to many tales and dirges of self-criticism about early nineties when militants were seen in every locality, a young businessman with long beard stepped in to narrate his story.
“My uncle was living in Fateh Kadal and he had three sons,” the businessman began, asking the waiter to provide us soap.
At the table were two journalists and four businessmen including he.
My uncle's younger son, my cousin, was a boy made of different world, the businessman continued. He would offer prayers, look after destitute in the neighbourhood and showed no interest in the family business and politics of our times.
He was fond of his parents. His father tried to lure him towards family business of carpets but he showed no interest in it.
He was least bothered about money, as if it didn’t count for him. His father would give him money and next day it was all gone. He would give it as alms to some fakir. Ultimately, parents gave up on him and didn’t insist him to join the family business. He was allowed to continue studies but he seldom went to college.
One day, in the summer of 1996, he went to offer Asar prayers at a mosque which was just across the road.
His was the last house at the end of a lane opposite to the mosque.
He walked in the lane, greeting people on the way, crossed the road and offered prayers. Once he stepped out of mosque, he found a gypsy of special operation group (SOG) parked some distance away.
It didn’t bother him. Since he had no connection with militants and was not interested in politics, he didn’t give any importance to the SOG men, who had covered their heads with black cloth with shabby faces giving an impression that they have not taken a bath for months.
Other people who had also come out the mosque, however, panicked on seeing the SOG. They told the young boy, who had long beard, that the SOG men were staring at him. They told him move fast towards his home.
He took quick steps, crossed the road and quickly reached his home. However, he forgot to bolt the gate. As usual, he sat in anteroom where his parents were taking nun chai (salt tea).
Minutes later, they all turned their heads toward the lawn when they heard some noises. Before they could understand what was going on, SOG men were in the house, shouting and looking for 'the bearded boy'.
In front of his parents, the SOG men caught hold of him and yelled at him.
"Why you runaway. You are militant. That is why you runaway.”
His father, when heard it, slapped the son, not once, but thrice. It was, perhaps, for the first time in his life that the father had acted like that. It had never happened before. But this time he slapped him and told him why he runaway. The father presumed the SOG men would realise with his act that this boy has nothing to do with militancy but might have runaway out of fear.
But the SOG didn’t care about the slaps. They started beating the boy with gun butts and dragged him out into the lawn where they fired at him. Then they fired again and he was dead. His father was watching everything from the window. They dragged his body out on the lane and bundled it into the gypsy.
In the evening, we got his body, the businessman said.
"We protested, shouted slogans and buried him. It was a doomsday for us."
“You know what happened afterwards,” the businessman said, looking at us.
We didn’t say anything.
“His father would curse himself always. He had no regrets that the SOG men killed his son, but he would always abuse himself for slapping his son before his death."
"He would always say, 'why did I slap him?' Then he would spit at his hands."